I was talking to a writer the other night who was proud that his new book sold 160 copies. I’m happy he was happy, but why do writers and publishers so rarely talk about the numbers? To answer the age-old question, if a book comes out and nobody reads it, it doesn’t exist. To sell fewer copies than the Epilogue had viewers* is nothing to be proud of.
Publishers become curiously shy when the subject turns to shifting units, and still talk about independent bookshops with glistening eyes, avoiding certain key facts from The School Of The Bleeding Obvious.
1. All students buy books on Amazon. It’s the economy, stupid.
2. The most vociferous readers are embittered Daily Mail-reading housewives who buy Jeremy Clarksons at Oxfam.
3. ‘Jamie Oliver’s Big Book of Jams’ isn’t a book, it’s a product, as is anything WH Smith’s Galaxy-bartering railway souks try to flog you.
4. Nobody wants ‘The Stephanie Beacham Story’ for Christmas.
5. Many upmarket bookshops are like churches; hushed, lifeless and inexplicably depressing.
6. Council-run reading nights are less popular than Over-70 Swim-Aerobics, with whom they share a demographic.
7. There are still publishers and writers who use social networks as if they were getting to grips with a loom.
8. Every editor who approves a book in which a detective finds a dead immigrant girl and unravels a secret from his own past deserves to be hung outside their office window as a warning to others.
9. Any book that dares to cross the genres publishers have ghettoed themselves into will find themselves sharing shelf space with Gruffalo plush.
10.The British fiction authors who sell best are ones who write as if they’ve recently been in very bad car accidents.
*This is a joke for readers of, ahem, a certain age.